Chapter Two: Areas of Technology and Engineering Literacy


This chapter describes the essential knowledge and capabilities that will be assessed on the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment beginning in 2014. Although it is not possible to assess every aspect of technology and engineering literacy, this framework identifies a set of assessment targets related to the nature, processes, and uses of technology and engineering that are essential for 21st-century citizens. The assessment targets are organized into three major areasTechnology and SocietyDesign and SystemsInformation and Communication Technology.

These three areas of technology and engineering literacy are interconnected. The relationship among these three major assessment areas can be illustrated as a three-sided pyramid in which each side supports the other two. For example, to address an issue related to technology and society, such as clean water, energy needs, or information research, a person who is literate in technology and engineering must understand technological systems and the engineering design process and be able to use various information and communication technologies to research the problem and develop possible solutions.

This chapter provides descriptions of each of the major areas of technology and engineering literacy as well as subareas and tables of assessment targets that specify what students in grades 4, 8, and 12 should know and be able to do. The assessment targets describing what students should be able to do foreshadow the crosscutting practices—ways of thinking and reasoning— described in chapter three.

It will be apparent when reading assessment targets across the grade-level rows that learning is cumulative—that is, later grades build on what has been learned in earlier grades, so that students develop a greater sophistication and depth of understanding as they advance in school. For instance, elementary school students think of a technological change in terms of a succession of products, as in the evolution of writing technology from clay tablets to pen and paper and to computers and printers. Middle school students are able to think in terms of technological "processes", such as the processing of food, or the extraction of metal from ore. High school students have learned to think in terms of technological "systems" such as a city's public transportation system or water purification system.

There is some overlap among the three major assessment areas. For example, there may be references to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and to Design and Systems within the Technology and Society area. This is due in part to the mutual support that these technological principles and skills lend to each other, and it serves to emphasize that individuals who are literate in technology and engineering can bring these ways of thinking and acting to bear on any problem or goal. Thus, ICT knowledge and skills are called on during the design of technologies; information and communication technologies are developed by engineering design processes; and the myriad technologies designed to meet human needs, including the ubiquitous information and communication technologies, are influenced by and have impacts on society.

The 3 major assessment areas of technology and engineering literacy and their corresponding subareas are presented in table 2.1 and briefly summarized below.

Table 2.1 Major areas and subareas of 2014 NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment

Technology & Society

Design & Systems

Information & Communication Technology (ICT)

Interaction of Technology and Humans

Nature of Technology

Construction and Exchange of Ideas and Solutions

Effects of Technology on the Natural World

Engineering Design

Information Research

Effects of Technology on the World of Information and Knowledge

Systems Thinking

Investigation of Problems

Ethics, Equity, and Responsibility

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Acknowledgment of Ideas and Information


Selection and Use of Digital Tools

Technology and Society

A. Interaction of Technology and Humans concerns the ways society drives the improvement and creation of new technologies and how technologies serve society as well as change it.

B. Effects of Technology on the Natural World is about the positive and negative ways that technologies affect the natural world.

C. Effects of Technology on the World of Information and Knowledge focuses on the rapidly expanding and changing ways that information and communications technologies enable data to be stored, organized, and accessed and on how those changes bring about benefits and challenges for society.

D. Ethics, Equity, and Responsibility concerns the profound effects that technologies have on people, how those effects can widen or narrow disparities, and the responsibility that people have for the societal consequences of their technological decisions.

Design and Systems

A. Nature of Technology offers a broad definition of technology as consisting of all the products, processes, and systems created by people to meet human needs and desires.

B. Engineering Design is a systematic approach to creating solutions to technological problems and finding ways to meet people's needs and desires.

C. Systems Thinking is a way of thinking about devices and situations so as to better understand interactions among components, root causes of problems, and the consequences of various solutions.

D. Maintenance and Troubleshooting is the set of methods used to prevent technological devices and systems from breaking down and to diagnose and fix them when they fail.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

A. Construction and Exchange of Ideas and Solutions concerns an essential set of skills needed for using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and media to communicate ideas and collaborate with others.

B. Information Research includes the capability to employ technologies and media to find, evaluate, analyze, organize, and synthesize information from different sources.

C. Investigation of Problems concerns the use of Information and Communication Technology to define and solve problems in core school subjects and in practical situations.

D. Acknowledgment of Ideas and Information involves respect for the intellectual property of others and knowledge of how to credit others' contributions appropriately, paying special attention to the misuse of information enabled by rapid technological advances.

E. Selection and Use of Digital Tools includes both knowledge and skills for choosing appropriate tools and using a wide variety of electronic devices, including networked computing and communication technology and media.